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Managing Travel Risk

International SOS protects Dartmouth travelers

At any given time, someone from Dartmouth is traveling overseas. Whether it's a faculty member studying source materials in a far-flung library, a student participating in a Foreign Study Program, a graduate engaged in an Alumni Relations travel program or an administrator going abroad as part of his or her job, globe-hopping is an integral part of the Dartmouth experience. International travel entails risks, whether they stem from natural disasters or political tensions, and the College is offering a new program that provides added protection through a contractual agreement with International SOS.

"This is an appropriate protection for our community," says Director of the Office of Integrated Risk Management and Insurance (OIRMI) Henry "Hank" James. "Benefits include everything from pre-trip advice on travel, security and health issues by country; translation and interpretation services; and management of medical problems overseas to emergency medical evacuation."

As one of the world's largest medical and security assistance companies, International SOS provides a wide range of services to international travelers. The company maintains a staff of over 3,000 doctors, nurses, multilingual coordinators and travel and aviation specialists whose services are available 24 hours a day in more than 100 countries on five continents, and in over 70 languages.

In response to the recent tsunami disaster in nations in the Asian Pacific, the company has deployed numerous operations groups, including a 24-hour center in Phuket, Thailand, and a missing persons team. International SOS is also conducting evacuations and case management in the area and is maintaining an "Asia Pacific Natural Disaster" Web site.

The coverage Dartmouth is able to offer came about as the result of a negotiation involving several colleges and universities. Schools that now participate in the program as a consortium include Columbia, Brown, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Temple, Rutgers, Howard, and Tufts universities as well as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Universities of Vermont and Delaware, George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania.

"The benefit of having multiple institutions was that we heard many perspectives on travel risk and that combined knowledge resulted in more comprehensive protection for our community," says Chris Boroski, Associate Director of OIRMI.

James and Boroski are in the process of getting International SOS membership cards to campus departments whose programs focus on international travel. The cards, which carry a special Dartmouth identification number, have so far been distributed to faculty, staff and students in Off-Campus Programs, the Dickey and Rockefeller Centers, and Alumni Relations.

For Kenneth Yalowitz, director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding, international travel is a way of life and the Center manages a number of programs that send students and faculty members abroad. "I think we should be very enthusiastic about the International SOS program," he says. "The fact that the College has decided to become an International SOS institution tells us that the institution is concerned about the safety of students, faculty and alumni traveling abroad in a post-9/11 world. As a department that manages programs that help fund all these constituencies, we are glad we can provide them with an International SOS card. Not only does it provide an added degree of security, but it reminds everyone that international travel is a serious undertaking nowadays, and that they should avoid unnecessary risk-taking while they are abroad."

"The International SOS program has been available to students and faculty associated with our Off-Campus Programs since the beginning of the 2004 fall term and has become an important element in the overall health and safety strategy for these programs," said John Tansey, Executive Director of Off-Campus Programs. "The feedback we've received from faculty, students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive."

The International SOS program is experienced in working with healthcare providers and insurers in the United States. "One of the most attractive features of the program," says Boroski, "is its coordination service. If someone should fall ill overseas, International SOS will establish an account and pre-pay all of their medical expenses. They will then coordinate billing processes with the employee's regular health insurance provider here at home, providing medical report translation services and even currency conversion information as necessary."

James urges all Dartmouth employees and alumni who travel on College programs to consider obtaining an International SOS card, and to complete the online Personal Travel Record prior to any international trip. "It's a simple process," he says. "People can get a card online or in person here at the risk management office.

The International SOS/Dartmouth website provides a pdf file that contains the Dartmouth identification card. Employees can print this file and use it as their card, or they can obtain a card directly from the Office of Integrated Risk Management and Insurance at 53 South Main Street in Hanover, Suite 212; phone 646-2442.

By LAUREL STAVIS

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08